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  Friday, 26 January, 2001, 12:45 GMT
Agassi still hungry for success
Andre Agassi celebrates victory at Roland Garros
Agassi celebrates victory in the 2000 French Open
By BBC Sport Online's Stephen Wood in Melbourne

The spectre of becoming a "30-something" can haunt the most carefree of souls.

But Andre Agassi has plenty of cause to celebrate after successfully defending his Australian Open title.

The American, who turns 31 in three months, was the fourth oldest player in the draw at Melbourne Park.

Yet his mind and body were working sharply enough as he became the 13th player in history to win back-to-back Australian Open titles.

Demeanour is important where Agassi concerned, for he thrives on a positives and often cowers when the going gets tough.

Andre Agassi lets fly with a forehand during the 1989 French Open
Agassi, with hair, back in 1989

There is no sign, however, that he is ready to carry out a threat made at Wimbledon 18 months ago - that when he loses his motivation again, he will quit the tennis life for good.

Through the worst of a turbulent 12 months, the number six seed proved with his tiumph at Melbourne Park that he can still compete with all-comers.

The Las Vegan has transformed himself from brat to the charmer who not only delights an assortment of hacks in a press conference but, twice as difficult, his introverted girlfriend Steffi Graf.

On the court is where Agassi really comes alive, though, and his longevity can be traced to an incident at the Australian Open two years ago.

Four years since winning his last Grand Slam, he was knocked out in the fourth round, prompting fears he was about to turn his back on tennis.

But playing with Agassi's troubled mind at that point was Gil Reyes, his physical trainer.

Reyes is rarely in the spotlight, but his words of encouragment left Agassi with renewed desire.

Steffi Graf cheers Agassi to victory in last year's Australian Open final
Graf cheers Agassi to victory in last year's Australian Open

"I'm in," Agassi said, in one instant letting Reyes know he would work harder than ever in one last bid to recapture former glories.

Agassi has never been a natural athlete, but five months later he was celebrating becoming French Open champion.

He was runner-up to Pete Sampras at Wimbledon a month later before securing successive title wins at the US Open in September and 2000 Australian Open.

Agassi was back, and number one in the world at that.

While Brad Gilbert, his coach, has taken most of the praise, Reyes is aware of his input.

Agassi's rift with his father, Mike, has led some to suggest that Reyes is a father-figure for Agassi, but Reyes says: "I would not go that far.

"I'm not sure that I'm a spiritual adviser, either, which others have suggested. But Andre and I have been together for many years.

"It is a strong bond that we have, and it will be hard to break that now."

That bond was placed under intense strain last year, when Agassi's world seemed to be disintegrating.

Gilbert (left) and Agassi pose for the cameras after last year's Australian Open triumph
Gilbert (left) and Agassi pose for the cameras after last year's Australian Open triumph

He suffered a back injury at Queen's Club ahead of Wimbledon, and aggravated it in a car crash one month later.

Then he earned that his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer - a disease already afflicting his sister.

After a second round exit at the US Open, Agassi left the Tour, only to return to become runner-up to Gustavo Kuerten at the Masters Cup in December.

That relative triumph started the mini-comeback which Agassi completed in his beloved Melbourne with a convincing defeat of Frenchman Arnaud Clement in the final.

Reyes is convinced his man will now go down as one of the legends of tennis.

"Andre is a phenomenon," he said. "He has won the lot and is a gentleman to boot.

"But the one thing that sets him apart is what I've learned from working him. Some people dream for things, Andre goes out there and earns them."

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28 Jan 01 | Australian Open
28 Jan 01 | Australian Open
25 Jan 01 | Australian Open
26 Jan 01 | Australian Open
25 Jan 01 | Australian Open
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